It is an alliance that will feel incongruous to many immersed in the bitter rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United. But Steven Gerrard has revealed Sir Alex Ferguson has been on hand for advice during his tenure at Rangers.
In a Guardian interview published on Monday Ferguson hailed the “magnificent” work done by Gerrard, after the former Liverpool captain made Rangers champions of Scotland for the first time since 2011.
“It’s very high praise and I’m extremely flattered,” Gerrard said. “He’s an iconic figure in the game. Through no fault of our own we became big, big rivals at Liverpool and Manchester United, the two biggest clubs in British football.
“We were massive rivals for many years and he’s someone that even though he was a rival I looked up to him immensely because he is such an iconic figure in the game. What he achieved in the game is up there with the very best who have ever lived. So I’m really flattered and humbled by his words.”
It transpires the former Manchester United manager – and Rangers player – knows a little more about Gerrard’s three-year Ibrox tenure than he disclosed. Gerrard was speaking as he collected the William Hill Scottish Football Writers manager of the year award in Glasgow.
“I’ll let you into a little secret: I’ve had a couple of conversations with him,” Gerrard said. “Since I retired we have parked our rivalry up and he gave me time on the phone to bounce a few things off him, a few questions to do with the management up here at Rangers.
“He was fantastic in those conversations. At some point moving forward I’d love the chance to sit down with him and have a coffee. He’s agreed to that and that’s fantastic from his point of view because he doesn’t have to give me his time, especially being a rival. But I think that goes to show what type of man he is. He’s not just the iconic manager we all know.”
Gerrard has previously spoken about the value of leaning on the lauded former Rangers managers Graeme Souness and Walter Smith for support. “When you are trying to learn and you are striving to be better it isn’t just listening to these people after you have won a league,” he said.
“This has been a journey and sometimes you feel like you are going down the wrong road or you are hitting a few bumps or maybe you need some advice that is non-football related.
“I wouldn’t say they are all mentors – that is a bit too extreme – but it is nice to know that you can pick the phone up to someone that has been there and done it. When you are trying to learn and grow, to have people who have been so successful and who have gone through what I am going through now many, many times that is invaluable for me.”
Rangers have two games left, starting with the trip to Livingston on Wednesday, in what remains an unbeaten league season. “I don’t want to mark myself out of 10; I think that is for other people,” Gerrard said. “But I have just won an award for being the best manager amongst a set of fantastic coaches so obviously I am not doing too badly.”